The business I’m in involves a lot of coaching and guiding of franchisees to teach them how to coach and guide entrepreneurs, salespeople, and professionals to generate referrals for themselves and others. Sometimes this feels a little like ‘herding cats’; entrepreneurs hate being told what to do and it takes a real skill set to move them in a direction that involves a lot of hard work but will help them achieve the results they want.
One of the biggest challenges I have in this process is not with the actual entrepreneur or salesperson but with the individual I’m coaching to be able to guide the entrepreneur or salesperson. These people have gone through many hours of training, tend to have a fair amount of field experience, and have support manuals that exceed a thousand pages of documentation to assist in the process. They are true experts. I’ve discovered, however, that sometimes expertise can actually be a problem. Just because your expertise may arm you with the knowledge to recognize the solution to a problem or challenge, it doesn’t mean other people are going to automatically ‘believe’ you know the solution and/or want you to actually tell them the solution. I know that sounds counter intuitive; however, if you’ve ever raised a child, you know that this is often times absolutely true!
So, let’s say you’re an expert. You know you’re an expert. You know that you can help someone else. You also know that this “someone else” is a grownup who runs their own business or is an independent sales rep who chose their particular career for good reason . . . they like the freedom of being independent. How do you move these people in the right direction?
I had a person who worked for my company who once went into one of my locations and was appalled by how badly things were being run by the members of the group. She let them know in no uncertain terms what they were doing wrong and how they needed to turn it around. Her assessment of the situation and the solutions she proposed were spot on but her presentation of them was all wrong. She was so blunt with the group’s members that she received a very negative reaction from them and ended up leaving the place an even bigger mess than it was when she first walked in. When I met with her to talk about how she might have done things differently, she grew furious with me for not supporting her since she was right and the members of the group were wrong. I wasn’t arguing that she was right–she was. The problem I had was how she handled the situation–in that area, she was completely wrong. I tried to explain this to her by sharing one of my favorite sayings relating to the dilemma: “Don’t burn down the barn to roast the pig.” In other words, don’t make things worse than you found them when you were trying to fix them in the first place.
She could never really wrap her head around the concept that people may not welcome her advice with enthusiasm and agree with her stance on an issue when she was clearly right. She didn’t work for me for much longer (make of that what you will) and, eventually, we got an expert to work with that group who ‘listened’ to their issues, Built relationships with the group members, and then coached them into achieving the greatness they had within them. It’s important to note that this process took time and patience.
There are two things I try to teach people in this situation.
First, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” If you want people to listen to you when you are coaching them or re-directing them, they have to know that you care about them and want them to succeed. If they don’t know this down to their core – they will not listen to your advice. Ever.
Second, is a saying given to me by mother on a paper weight when I was about 16 years old and I was running an uphill battle for a student council race. My mother gave me this paper weight (which is still on my desk in my home to this date). The paper weight says: “Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.” When she gave me that, she explained that I had to learn how to work “with” people – not “through” people. She said that even if I did know the answer to a problem – it did no good if no one else believed me. That advice helped me win the election and it has helped me many times throughout my life. I have to admit that I don’t always use it as well as I can – however, when I do use it, things almost always go more smoothly.
The bottom line is this: being right doesn’t help much if no one is willing to follow you.
What are your thoughts on this issue? Maybe you can share a story . . . please keep it positive though. Let’s focus on positive outcomes more than just horror stories.